Pennine Way Trip 3
Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Dufton
66 Miles – 8 days – 7 camps – 12kgs – one dog
75 miles walked in total
DAY ONE: Horton to Ling Gill Bridge 5 miles
Weather: wet and windy, dry in the evening.
A day of train travel, wet and windy hiking, flooded paths, deep potholes, a stunning ravine and a wild-camp by the stream.
- A straight forward and comfortable train journey.
- Pitching the tent in dry conditions on level and fairly dry ground.
- Heavy rain for several hours.
- No nice views due to the weather.
DIARY: after a long, but comfortable, train journey me and a faithful Labrador-cross called Lola, my son’s dog, arrived in Horton-in-Ribblesdale.
Unfortunately, soon after setting off it started to spit then rain heavily for several hours, which didn’t fill me with much enthusiasm for the rest of the trip. Dark thoughts of turning back while still near a railway station were eventually dispelled from my mind; surely it won’t rain for a week, the forecast said changeable, not monsoon season.
A few miles along the ‘Cam Road’ (a roman road and old drovers’ track), a stream had turned into a raging torrent plunging into the depths of a deep pothole called Calf Holes, an impressive sight.
Thankfully the deluge stopped just before we got to Ling Gill Bridge, a good spot to pitch up, giving us chance to set up camp and have a look at the Ling Gill Ravine.
DAY TWO: Ling Gill Bridge to Great Shunner Fell 12 miles
Weather: wet, windy, cloudy, dry in the evening.
A day of wet and windy moors, occasional views of deep bog and lush valleys, dark forests, lunch in a cafe, Wensleydale cheese, and a wild-camp on the fell.
- Not too much rain.
- A nice lunch in Hawes.
- Finding a decent wild-camp spot.
- Not many nice views due to the weather.
DIARY: having slept well we woke to a dry overcast morning. After breakfast and packing up we followed a rough track, later a tarmac track, where big forestry lorries occasionally grumbled past, up and over Dodd Fell with the odd glimpse of green valleys below.
Soon after setting off the weather had turned a little damp and quite windy. We met a another PW walker clad head-to-toe in waterproofs and carrying a large pack, going from north to south, facing the prevailing wind, full of stories and still smiling.
Eventually we got to Hawes, where I bought some nice cheese from the Wensleydale Creamery and had lunch in a cafe, while the dog had a sausage roll and a tin of dog food outside.
Hawes seemed a nice place to spend some time, but we needed to make tracks. We walked the short distance to Hardraw, where I’d planned to camp, but decided (foolishly perhaps) to walk on and find a spot on Great Shunner Fell instead. We hiked another 2 miles or so before deciding going any higher would not be sensible due to the wind, and found a sheltered level spot behind a wall.
By not stopping at Hardraw we missed the Hardraw Waterfall, the tallest single drop fall in England, accessible through the Green Dragon Inn.
Observations made by another wayfarer on the trail:
“Its just a long boring slog really”
“These are not real mountains, just big round hills”
“You will like the Cheviots, they are wild and remote”
The long slog bit I agree with. Boring? No, there is little time for boredom, the (total) preoccupation with the trail (route-finding, weather, food, sore feet, gates and styles, bog and marsh, animals, where to pitch) keep mind and body busy.
DAY THREE: Great Shunner Fell to Tan Hill Inn 12 miles
Weather: drizzly, windy, foggy, wet.
A day of miles of bog and fog, lunch in the pub, awkward little styles, overgrown paths, waterfalls and limestone cliffs, more miles of wet, windy, desolate moorland, and camping at the highest pub in England.
- The wild beauty of Great Shunner Fell.
- Sporadic views of deep valleys, waterfalls and limestone cliffs.
- A good lunch in Thwaite.
- Getting to Tan Hill Inn.
- Wet and windy weather.
- Getting soaked through.
- Many awkward narrow styles.
DIARY: we woke again to dry weather and, after the usual camp-routines, followed the trail up the hill. It soon started to drizzle and the higher we got, the foggier, windier and wetter it got, so windy in fact I had to put my hood up to stop my hat blowing off.
After many false summits finally the true summit was reached, where I had a quick snack while perched, bag and all, on the narrow wooden bench in the shelter. Then followed more miles of walking on mill-stones lain across the bogs, no map or compass needed here. A few ups and downs, then the trail turned into a rough farm-track, that I found hard on the legs, before getting to a tarmac lane leading to the small hamlet of Thwaite.
In Thwaite I had lunch in the hotel with the dog napping under my feet, both enjoying the comfort of being inside for a little while.
After lunch we walked up and along Kisdon Hill, struggling with the many narrow styles, overgrown vegetation, blown down birch trees and rocky paths in increasingly foul weather. Just before getting to Keld, where the PW crosses the river Swale, I decided to push on instead of camping on one of the campsites. After a quick look at a waterfall, we started trudging up the track to Stonesdale Moor.
Then followed four miles of walking across exposed windswept moorland with the wind blowing and the rain lashing down horizontally, my moral severely dented and a tired soggy dog following behind. A few suitable wild-camp spots were found but rejected in favour of reaching the Tan Hill Inn and spending the evening in front of a real fire.
Tan Hill was reached before dark where we gratefully dumped our bags in the porch and spent some time drying off and warming up by the fire in the lounge. I was soaked to the skin despite decent waterproofs (I have the tendency to not always fully zip up…) so it was nice to change into dry clothes. In the morning the (amazing) staff kindly tumble-dried my wet clothes, a rare luxury.
After pitching the tent on the least exposed, flat bit of land behind the pub, a few hours were spent chatting and drinking beer by the fire before spending a wet and windy night under canvas.
DAY FOUR: Tan Hill Inn to Baldersdale 12 miles
Weather: sunny spells, a few short showers, windy.
A day of decent weather, soggy moorland, good views, lunch at God’s Bridge, reaching the half-way point of the PW, more miles of moorland, cows chasing the dog, and a wild-camp by the reservoirs.
- Much better weather.
- A great breakfast in the pub.
- Dry clothes thanks to the staff at the Inn.
- Good views due to improved weather conditions.
- A decent wild-camp spot by the reservoir.
- A beautiful sunset.
- Lost my hat at the Inn.
DIARY: thankfully we woke to decent weather, dry with some blue sky though still breezy. After a much needed cooked breakfast in the Inn, we packed up and started crossing a soggy Sleightholme Moor, trying to keep ahead of some very fit-looking elderly hikers. At a bridge the boggy trail gave way to a rough track, then crossed the Beck via a footbridge followed by a trail across a stretch of purple moorland to God’s Bridge.
At God’s Bridge we had a long relaxed lunch before going under the A66 and crossing a fairly dry Cotherstone Moor to Baldersdale. The shooters’ hut at Deepdale Beck (partially open to hikers) was full of Scottish hikers, so we slowly trudged uphill to Race Yates (a hill top) then downhill to Clove Lodge (no longer a campsite) and the reservoirs.
While looking for a place to pitch, we came across a small herd of curious cows. One look at these big beasts and Lola bolted, bags and all across the field, with me walking as fast as I could to catch up, followed by some very amused cattle. A good deal of dog-whispering was needed to convince Lola I would keep her safe, and she was put on the lead for awhile.
DAY FIVE: Baldersdale to Low Force 10 miles
Weather: Sunny spells, breezy.
A day of reservoirs, farmland and gentle moorland, sheep chasing the dog, lunch in the pub, food shopping, more farmland, a beautiful river path, awesome waterfalls, and a wild-camp in woodland.
- Good weather.
- An excellent lunch in a pub in Middleton.
- The rapids and waterfalls of the river Tees.
- A great wild-camp spot in a beautiful small woodland.
- the many many narrow styles.
Diary: after washing hair and some clothes, eating breakfast and packing up, we headed up the hill past Hannah’s Meadow nature reserve, and across a few miles of moorland to Grassholme reservoir. Then a few more miles of farmland and moorland before getting to Middleton-in -Teesdale.
Wythes Farm, a mile or so from the reservoir, had a selection of snacks and drinks on offer, unfortunately I had no change at all. When crossing some fields, we got followed by a small posse of sheep, showing no fear at all of the dog, who eyed up the woollie creatures with distrust before scarpering out of the way.
I had been exited about Middleton, which sounded like a nice place to have lunch and shop, and the river Tees and its waterfalls. Lunch was had in a quiet dog-friendly pub with a french menu, the food was excellent and not expensive. After buying some snacks and dog-food from the local mini-mart, we found the river path and headed upstream in search of a good place to pitch up.
What I assumed was going to be an easy stroll along the river, turned into an awkward obstacle course; a dog with panniers and narrow Yorkshire styles do not mix. Several small spare bin-liners saved the day, and my sanity as well. By packing the contents of the panniers into two equal bags I could simply lift these out of the panniers instead of taking the whole thing off every time. This only took two days to figure out…
A small campsite, just a windy field with toilets, was rejected when a large noisy family with several crates of beer turned up, that and the lack of showers. Near Low Force a secluded spot was found in some woods. We spent the evening admiring the falls and taking selfies with some works of art (big mirrors) under the big pine trees.
When buying dog biscuits, the lady serving shot me a funny look. They should be used to hikers with rucksacks…maybe I smelled weird…four days and no shower…Then a chap came in saying he’d just seen a dog tied up outside carrying its own bags. The lady looked at me, laughed and exclaimed “Oh I thought these were for you!”…
DAY SIX: Low Force to Maize Beck 12 miles
Weather: sunny spells, windy.
A day of fantastic scenery following the river Tees, stunning waterfalls, rocky cliffs, a large reservoir, miles of lonely moorland, and a wild-camp in a sheepfold on the fell.
After a great night sleep sheltered by the trees we packed up and hiked a bit further to High Force, one of the biggest waterfalls in the UK and quite spectacular. Recent rainfall after the heatwave meant there was plenty of water cascading over the rock shelf.
Further along there were lots of juniper trees which were suffering from a devastating disease, A sign asked walkers going south to use the boot-cleaning device situated by the path to help stop the spread of the disease.
The river remained a joy to follow, the scenery became wilder. We walked through a farm with cattle intent of tormenting the dog by running up to her, I protected her by waving my sticks and telling them to get lost, (I am used to cows) suddenly I became her best friend, for a while anyway.
After a battle against the forceful breeze and a struggle across the boulder path close to the river, Falcon Clints was reached. Here we stopped and lay in the sun for a long time, listening to the water flowing, drifting in and out of a light sleep.
Eventually, with some reluctance, we moved on. Round a bend we came to Cauldron Snout, where the Tees thunders through a narrow rocky channel fed from the Cow Green reservoir. The dog struggled up the big steps next to the falls, she was terrified of the water rushing past close by, I ended up lifting her up the big boulders. At the top, a large concrete dam, incongruous and disputed, holding back the water from the reservoir, what used to be the origin of the river Tees.
After a quick look at the reservoir, we followed a seemingly never-ending vehicle track high up on the moors. A lonely farm and old mine workings were passed, battered by the wind we struggled further, foolishly trying to find some shelter to pitch the little tent. Eventually on tired legs, we arrived at Maize Beck, a big stream flowing high up on the moors but in a slight dip.
The tent was pitched in a sheepfold, where handy rocks made a good seat and table for cooking the only decent dehydrated meal I brought from home. The beef hotpot, all 600 kcals, didn’t touch the sides. The dog fell asleep before the tent was pitched.
Big signs warned of the MOD live-shooting area on one side and the out-of-bound nature reserve on the other…we really shouldn’t have been there, not off-path anyway. Wind and rain battered the tent in the night, but no anti-tank gun or angry gamekeepers took a shot at us. Phew.
Two men approach me, their accents are Dutch, they want to know about the dog.
“You walk with your dog.” Yes…
“Your dog has its own bags.” Indeed.
“I’ve never seen that before.” Really?
“Come look, the dog has its own bags!”
“Can I take a picture?” Sure
Had I charged for people taking pictures of the dog it would’ve paid for the train fare home.
In Dutch I jokingly tell them the Dutch get everywhere. This of course sparks another familiar conversation. “How long in the UK? Why? Where?”
DAY SEVEN: Maize Beck to Dufton 6 miles
Weather: dry then wet, foggy, windy on the tops, dry, sunny spells in the valley.
A day of rain, wind and fog, no views at High Cup, wild horses, roaring water, sunshine in the valley, lunch in the cafe, a pitch on the campsite, a look at the ravine, hot showers, good food and a chat with other wayfarers in the pub.
After a restless night, we woke to puddles in the tent. A bit of a surprise but thankfully no big deal as I used a bivi-bag and a foam mat as well as an inflatable mat. As there was no more muesli left I had a breakfast of much loathed savoury cous-cous and a snickers bar followed by a mug of tea.
Today we would experience the grandeur of High Cup, amazing views through a huge U-shaped valley all the way to the fells of the Lake District further west…or not…
The weather deteriorated from dry and overcast, to wet, windy and foggy, to the point I checked the OS digital map on my phone to make sure I wasn’t going to either fall off the edge or walk down the wrong side (or worse end up on Dun Fell).
When I got to where I thought I should be seeing the awesome views, I put on my waterproof trousers (a bit late but hey ho). A man appeared out of the gloom, a local walking his dog, just out for a stroll, a tough northerner wearing jeans and a fleece…I felt slightly ridiculous.
“How do. Bit blowy today”
Later, as we dipped under the clouds and found the sun shining, we came across more people, all on the way up, all dressed for summer, all giving us funny looks as I was still in damp waterproofs, and making the usual remarks about the dog carrying her own stuff.
One chap remarked “is that your servant?”. I gruffly replied “I wish”. He was not amused, nor was I. My grumpiness didn’t last as fine views west opened up and the knowledge of having successfully completed another stretch of the PW.
DAY EIGHT: Dufton to Appleby in Westmorland 3 + 3 miles
Weather: sunshine, drizzle, breezy, warm.
A day of goodbyes, a walk back up High Cup and back, undulating country lanes, lunch in a cafe, a train to Carlisle then south to Worcestershire and home.
DIARY: we woke to good weather, rabbits nibbling on the grass and the sound of rural village life. After saying goodbye and good luck to other way-farers, we left our gear at the campsite and walked back up the hill to High Cup. We almost got to the top but turned back as we found the upper valley still cloaked in thick cloud. It was nice to have a last walk up the fell, especially without the big rucksack, even if we didn’t get a view.
Back at the campsite we packed up and started walking the 3 miles along the lanes to Appleby. Rural traffic, pickup trucks and landrovers with trailers, raced past us on the narrow road, not like the quiet fell-walking we enjoyed for a week. The weather turned drizzly and windy, but also very humid.
We got to Appleby in good time and decided to have lunch in a busy cafe, where the dog got lots of fuss and I got chatting with a Scot, who had a dislike of tall things such as mountains. A kind shop keeper across the road charged my phone for free. After a week of careful use the battery pack had finally run out of charge. Forgetting to bring my wall plug I could not charge it on-route.
A few hours later we caught the train first north to Carlisle, then south to my home town in Worcestershire.
Uplifting comment made by a fellow walker on FB:
“Great to see that we have a walker doing it the ideal way, a real salty camper taking the way on the chin. You have my admiration, well done on your endurance so far, keep with it and take your time.”
How nice is that?
A week later, my right knee became very painful, driving was torture, walking almost impossible…a GP diagnosed ‘runner’s knee’ syndrome.
I didn’t lose any weight this time but toned up a fair bit.
My aim had been to walk 10-12 miles a day and wild-camp as much as possible.
Lessons learnt from this trip:
- Train for your trip but don’t overdo it.
- Stretch and exercise specific muscles.
- Double check your kit, I forgot a few things.
- Don’t give up when it rains, you will survive.
- Montane GT 55 rucksack
- TT Stealth 2 tent
- Rab Ascent 500 sleeping bag
- Equinox Bivi-bag
- Thermarest Neoair Venture mat
- Z-Lite mat
- STS pillow
- Four dry-bags (2 big, 2 small)
- TN waist pouch
- Stormin Stove meths cooking set + ti 650 mug + bowl + ti spoon + ss plate
- Matches and lighter
- Small first aid kit
- Wash bag + travel towel
- Toilet kit (loo-roll – travel-jane – blizzard stake – poo bags)
- One set of spare clothes
- Pedal bin liners
- Head-torch + spare batteries
- OS A-Z maps (cut out) in map holder
- Mobile Phone + battery pack + cable
- Food (dehydrated)
- Water pouches + filter
- Dog panniers + bowl + food
- Dog rain jacket
- Dog blanket
- Short roll-mat for dog
Roughly 10 kg without water and snacks
What (possible) changes next time:
- Maybe a lighter bag (such as my Granite Gear or similar)
- Ti plate instead of stainless steel
- Lighter mat (expensive and not as comfy?)
- Exped UL dry-bags (lighter but expensive)
- Take a light showerproof jacket as well
- Better panniers for dog
- Dry-bags for dog panniers
- Better additional guy-lines
- Pen/pencil and paper for notes
- An extra base-layer
What I did not use at all:
- Blizzard stake (trowel/spare tent peg)
- Travel Jane
- Spare batteries
Thanks for reading. Hopefully more next year.